BY: SABU PAUL, CHIEF CREATIVE OFFICER
Appointing the right agency is, therefore, a crucial business decision. Often, it can make or break your brand. The right agency will be your partner who takes your business to the next level. Some of the great marketing success stories are the result of lasting partnerships between the client and the agency.
Some agencies are good with films. Others may be great at digital. Where exactly do your needs lie? Is the agency good at that?
A quote attributed to Abraham Maslow says, “If a hammer is the only tool you have, you see every problem as a nail.” A digital specialist might feel that digital is the only way ahead for the brand, while an agency specializing in television commercials might claim that TVCs are the answer to everything.
So choose an agency that gives holistic solutions, and have capabilities across specializations. Such an agency will give you media- and specialization-agnostic solutions after taking into consideration the media habits of the target audience, your advertising budget, etc.
And once you shortlist the agencies that meet the criteria, bring them down to five. There’s no way you would be able to closely interact with and evaluate say 15 agencies. Also, it’d be a total waste of your time and energy. So resist the temptation to call every agency in your city. Do your homework and keep the list short and focused.
Call for a pitch, and you will see marquee names at the pitch presentation. However, once you award the business to an agency, you will probably never see them again. Most agencies, particularly huge network agencies, parade their top talent to win the business. Do realize that their job is mostly to win clients, not to work for them.
Ask the agency for the list of people who’d work for you. If they mention the national creative head of the Advertising Agency, you can safely assume that they are being economical with the truth.
Ask to see the people who will be involved in servicing the brand. Meet them, and see if there’s a comfort level. Alternatively, you could find a small or medium sized agency where the top honchos work hands-on for every client. There’s another reason to ignore Goliaths and choose Davids: a smaller agency will bring more passion to the table as they are out to prove something.
Take a good look at the agency’s portfolio. Is it the kind of work you like, and – more important – you’d approve if you were the client? Is the world solid and strong?
(Often clients look for category experience. Don’t, as it’s overrated. It’s a myth that handling a similar business as yours is vital. Any competent advertising professional can work on practically any brand. He or she has a set of principles and methods which can be applied on any business or brand. In fact, previous experience in the same category can often be a disadvantage as it limits fresh thinking and novel solutions.)
Don’t just go by the work an agency puts in their credentials. The work they showcase may not be representative of their everyday work. Take a good look at their regular work. Further, find out whether the work has got the brands desired results. If possible, speak to the clients and ask them about the how the communication fared.
Usually the fee you pay to an Ad Agency would be a fraction of what you’d spent on production and media. Therefore it makes sense to pay top dollar to an agency that delivers the goods.
If cost is a major consideration when choosing an agency you are being penny-wise and pound foolish. The adage that if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys is true not just for employees, but advertising agencies, too. Paying an agency fairly will ensure that they put top talent on your business. It’d be counterproductive to pay them less; they would cut corners wherever they can. Surely you don’t want only interns to work on your business? Also explore whether you can give the agency a performance-based incentive, and include that in the contract. This will motivate the agency to deliver work that works in the market.
A long-term relationship is built on mutual respect, trust and understanding. Is the team passionate? Inspiring? Are they collaborative and proactive? Are they willing to listen?
While there’s no way one can measure all this with 100% certainty in a few meetings, you will pick up signs during close interactions. Visit their office and you will get an idea of their work culture. Chat with the employees, and get a feel of their work culture. Does the workplace radiate cheerfulness and energy, or does it feel like a dead place? Do you share a comfort level with them?
You don’t need a checklist for all this; you would instinctively know. Now a few points on how to get the best from your agency once you appoint them.
Decide and let the agency know who would be the approving authority. Don’t let a committee take decisions, particularly when it comes to creative calls. As somebody once said, a camel is a horse designed by a committee. Most of the iconic advertisement campaigns have one thing in common: they were approved by a single person, not a group of people. So keep the chain of command short. And let the agency know when their work has brought you good results. Be transparent and honest when you deal with them. Also, don’t try to do their job yourself. Remember that they are specialists who know their job better than you. As David Ogilvy once said, “Don’t hire a dog, then bark yourself.”
Make them your partner, and the relationship will reward you in spades.